The mid-season opener of The Walking Dead left me in tears, twice. Yes, I watched it twice because the first time I watched it live, and the torrent of commercials made it virtually impossible to follow the story. Seriously, AMC, do better. That was just unnecessary.
I streamed the episode commercial free the second time, and the sadness and beauty of it crashed against me all over again, easily drawing tears from my eyes. The emotions coming of off this episode were that strong and raw. The cinematography was well executed too. Major kudos to the director for arranging the scenes in such a heart-rending manner. Some camera shots were just plain beautiful.
The episode opens up with a shovel loosening dirt to be put in a grave that most of us assume belongs to Beth after she died so meaninglessly from a gun shot to the head. An innocent, peaceful drawing of a house, now a relic of times forever gone by, sits atop a dresser against the sound of the digging. We move along to scenes of Maggie and Noah crying, the gang respectfully dropping dirt into the grave, and Father Gabriel reciting words about faith that probably few are listening to. His voice adds an even more hopeless quality to a very dark situation. We are shown pictures of twins who we later find out are Noah’s brothers.
Okay, these pictures killed me, you guys. With the music and Father Gabriel’s melancholic voice, there was something haunting in the photos—they were both depressing and creepy. Even more so later in the episode.
We then get shots of Lizzie and Mika! I get nostalgia overload, reminding me of one of the most depressing storylines from any of the seasons. I can just hear Carol’s voice in my head, “Look at the flowers, Lizzie!” Did not expect to see these two again, but this episode brings back a bunch of lost characters, good and bad.
Before cutting to the badass opening theme song, we see generous drops of blood tainting the perfect drawing of the house. Oh, the imagery is strong in this episode. We know this can’t be good.
Rick and a select group (Michonne, Glenn, and Tyreese) decide to bring Noah to his family near Richmond, Virginia as a way of honoring Beth’s prior wishes to help him get there. On the drive over there, Noah reassures Tyreese that the swap was a good idea and things just got fucked up in the end.
“Been wanting to tell you something.”
“The trade. It was the right play. It worked. Something else happened after.”
“It went the way it had to. The way it was always going to.”
In other words, shitty things happen, and sometimes for no particular reason. It’s just how life is, and it’s better to understand that now than later. These words pretty much sums up the whole episode.
We next learn from Tyreese about how his father would always instruct him and his sister to keep up with the news. “What’s happened and what’s going on,” which gives us the source of the episode’s strange title. Even when the news spewing from the car radio would be some horrible, traumatic event, Tyreese’s father would make him listen by refusing to change the station or turn it off. The reason? “Paying the high cost of living.” Chills.
We get to the gates of the closed community, and already we aren’t feeling too hopeful about Noah’s people. On the way there, Tyreese stares down at an old grandfather clock, another nugget of symbolism about lost time or very little time. Glenn hoists himself up to take a look over the wall and confirms our doubts with a shake of his head. Noah scrambles up over the fence and runs, dragging his injured leg like its nothing.
This kid deserves an award for being the fastest runner with a limp. The others catch up to him, and he breaks down and cries.
While Rick, Michonne, and Glenn go off to scout the area and scavenge whatever they can, Tyreese stays behind with Noah and tries to comfort him with words to continue living. He offers his own story of when he went berserk on a bunch of walkers after losing Karen and how he later regained some purpose in his life when he saved Judith and kept her safe. Noah isn’t having any of it and races to his house, once again proving he’s the best runner with a limp. Not even Tyreese can’t even catch him, and the big dude has function of both his legs!
Inside his house, Noah finds the rotting, head-bashed corpse of his mother on the floor of the living room. Tyreese takes this opportunity to let Noah grieve while he scouts the rest of the house. We hear the scratching and snarling of one of Noah’s younger brothers behind a closed door. Tyreese heads inside a room where he discovers the other twin’s corpse lying on the bed with his chest caved in. Pretty picture. Not.
Tyreese is drawn, mesmerized really, by the pictures of these boys’ lives plastered on the wall. The camera lingers on their expressive faces, humanizing them as we imagine their stories before the turn.
How could Tyreese let his guard down while taking in these pictures? I don’t blame him. He lives in such a bleak, killed or be killed world that these images offer some respite, maybe even solace from his grim reality. And then comes the moment of great tragedy. One of the twins comes stumbling into the room and takes a copious chomp of Tyreese’s arm. The big man pushes the small walker away, but tumbles back into the ground. Before the walker can approach, Noah jumps in and stabs his reanimated brother in the head with a toy jet plane. The whole scene is chock full of feels.
Noah assures Tyreese he’ll get the others for help, but we know and Tyreese knows that this will not end well. We get a shot of the radio and sure enough, we hear a Englishman’s voice (Andrew Lincoln’s voice in his real accent!) reporting the news because, you know, all the important news, especially international news, are reported with an English accent. This gave me flashbacks of Rick’s eerie phone calls from dead people like Lori. But the scene with Tyreese is a lot less cheesy with greater impact.
Losing blood, it’s not long before Tyreese starts hallucinating dead people. The first to show up is that Terminus bastard named Martin. Others show up like Bob, Lizzie and Mika, the Governor, and Beth. They all talk to him about his actions, motives, regrets, and how he lived after the turn…the stuff people think about before they die, so we get even more confirmation that Tyreese will probably leave us. But I have to admit, I was holding on to hope he wouldn’t die because others have survived bites and amputations (Hershel). The girls’ talk more about letting go and stepping into the light while Martin and the Governor harass him about making wrong and costly decisions.
In the midst of all of this, we hear the radio reports of news that could refer to the past events in the season or foreshadow future events. Dum dum dum!
The hallucination of the Governor ends up being a walker, and we get what is probably one of the most frightening scenes of any episodes of any season. The close-up up of that walker in Tyreese’s perspective felt so real and scary. I don’t know what I’d do looking at an ugly face like that. Tyreese proves his badassery one last time by shoving his bitten arm into the walker’s jaw and smashing its head in with a triangular shaped stone. The things you find in kids’ rooms to kill with: jet planes and huge stones. My room isn’t nearly as read for a walker invasion.
We go back to Rick and the others where Michonne is trying to convince the other two guys that they can make a sanctuary out of the town. Her plans for making a home out of the community falls apart when the gang comes across mutilated bodies cut from the waist down and limbs strewn about everywhere. It’s obviously the work of sick individuals so her plan’s a no go. Staying at Shirewilt Estates is a bad idea. Michonne isn’t giving up, however, and suggests they go to Washington even though there’s no cure. I mean, there’s just has to be something there. It’s Washington! Oh wait…just realized Washington is pretty useless. Badabing!
Anyway, with Tyreese on his way out, I feel Michonne is becoming the voice of sanity in the group now. Not necessarily the voice of conscious or morality, but the person who reminds them that they need to hope for something or else lose everything i.e. their humanity.
Her best line, “Don’t you want one more day with a chance?” Who doesn’t?
The others hear Noah screaming and rush to his rescue. Dude can’t even get help without being attacked. Rick and co clear the walkers away, but not before giving me a mini-heart attack when Michonne swung at a walker and hit a metal wire instead of sending its head flying. Thankfully, someone steps in to save her.
I declare this right now. If Michonne dies, I’m done with the show. Seriously. I’ve done it before: stopped reading or watching something after my favorite character died. I watch it mostly for her because nowhere on television can I find such a badass woman of color (aside from Olivia Pope, but I can’t connect with her drama-filled story). She uses a katana and is freaking good at it! Don’t mind as I fan girl all over her.
Tyreese continues to hallucinate as Beth makes an appearance, singing and playing the guitar like she used to. Lizzie and Mika keep reassuring Tyreese that it’s okay. It gets better in the light. When ghost Mika takes his hand to welcome him to the other side, we abruptly shift to reality. It’s actually Rick holding his arm out for Michonne to cut. Things unravel pretty quickly after that slice; the gang rushes Tyreese to the car. On their way out, they hit a van and heads topple unto the car, branded with W on their foreheads. Again, another sign of great trouble. There’s a gang out there called the Wolves and they ain’t friendly peoples.
But we all know it’s too late for the big guy. He hears the radio reporting again about those marauders and his final words are, “Turn it off.” Throughout the show, I thought the rebel forces referred to Rick and his group, but I decided it could refer to some future group as well. I haven’t read the comics so I’m strictly situated in the world of the TV show.
After some gorgeous shots of the moving sky, Tyreese answers the calls of his dead comrades and dies; the sky fades to black. We zoom out to watch the car drive and then stop: we know what has happened. Visibly distressed, the gang drags Tyreese’s body out, and Michonne does the hard job of stabbing his head to stop him from coming back as a walker.
Cue Father Gabriel’s depressing voice, and the loosening of dirt for a grave we initially thought was likely for Beth, but was actually for Tyreese. The image of a shell-shocked Sasha struggling to stand and pour dirt into her brother’s grave hit me in the gut and turned on the tears. She truly has lost everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if she crossed the edge and became hardcore berserk. She’s got nothing else to lose now.
How do you keep living after that? What resources do you have to unearth within yourself to keep on going? Although we would like to think we live for ourselves, we get a lot of our meaning in our lives through the relationships we have with people we love or care deeply about. If we lose them, it won’t be long before we search for someone one else. Or not. Maybe Sasha will cling close to another character on the show. We’ll see.
It’s one of the reasons why I love The Walking Dead and stories of its genre. The extreme situations squeeze out the worst and best of humanity, exposing core truths that we don’t want to face because they might truly be ugly and maybe even too frightening for us to deal with.
That’s it for the RECAP. Overall, I thought it was a great episode, probably the best of the whole season. Come back next time for Season 9 Episode 6! The group goes on a search for much needed basic necessities. Hopefully, nobody dies in the next episode. 😦
What did you think about the mid-season opener? Let me know!